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worker beside manhole for fiber install for sports network
ITS’ fiber installation work for UNC Athletics often started before dawn

This August will see an exciting new opportunity for the UNC-Chapel Hill athletic programs – on August 22, the ACC Network will debut after years of planning, negotiating and building. 

Announced in 2016, the ACC Network (ACCN) is a collaboration between the ACC and ESPN to create a cable channel exclusively for broadcasting ACC athletic events. The ACC is following in the footsteps of other major athletic conferences, including the SEC and Big 10, in having its own broadcast channel.

Dean Jordan, the ACC chief television consultant, has been quoted as predicting that with even moderate success, the ACCN would be able to compete with other athletic conference networks.

ITS began fiber install for ACCN in 2016

UNC-Chapel Hill departments have been preparing for the debut of the ACCN for the past few years. In 2016, ITS began work on installing several miles of optical fiber on campus for use by UNC Athletics. The agreement with ESPN means, practically, that the University will broadcast hundreds of athletic events each year.

This rate of broadcast required upgrades to the existing campus networks due to the volume and type of data – video files contain a vast amount of data, and broadcasting video requires more network capacity than most other uses.

Transport Operations, a unit within ITS Communication Technologies, installed a 288-strand fiber connecting Carmichael Arena and the Dean Smith Center to function as the core of the network and support for other, smaller fiber branches that reach other athletic venues. The new communications center also will connect to the fiber network upon its completion.

ITS will maintain the fiber

Chad Ray holds a cable of fiber
Chad Ray

UNC Athletics will have exclusive use of the new fiber network. This sets a new precedent on campus as no other fiber network exists for one single University entity’s use. ITS will be responsible for the care and maintenance of the fiber network, but Athletics will own the resource.

The challenges of this project were the same as any other we take on,” Transport Operations Manager Chad Ray said. We must always make sure that we meet the customers’ needs and that those needs are understood from the beginning.”

The arrival of the ACCN to campus will mark a big step for University athletic teams and the University in general. The network is expected to garner more attention for sports teams that had few televised events in the past.

Possible second phase

A potential second phase for the project has been discussed that would connect other outlying athletics venues, such as those for the golf and tennis teams, to the fiber network. This would also grant these sports teams more exposure because their events would be broadcast to a large audience. 

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